Thursday, April 3, 2014


Dave Trampier has passed away. He had cancer and had suffered a stroke earlier this year.

Trampier (a.k.a. "Tramp", a.k.a. "DAT") created many of my favorite illustrations for the game. Many of his best were oddly naturalistic, in the sense that they depicted monsters or adventurers engaged in everyday activities, whatever "everyday" might mean for a salamander or a band of halflings or a team of dwarven miners. His style had what I like to call a strong design sense, making heavy use of fields of black both as representational figures and as abstract shapes, beautiful in their own right. Individual figures often struck tableau-like poses, but he was capable of drawing dynamic scenes, such as a fight with a catoblepas or Emirikol's fatal ride down some unnamed city street.

He left TSR in 1988, frustrated by company politics, and vanished from the gaming and art scene. He was believed to be dead until an article mentioned a cab driver in Carbondale, IL named Dave Trampier. But he shunned attention from the gaming community almost up to the point of his death last week. When it was suggested that he might publish a re-print of his Wormy cartoons, he implied that he might be willing so long as TSR had no rights to the product; he was unaware that TSR had long ago been bought out by Wizards of the Coast.

I do not know what inner conflicts might have made him throw out the baby with the bathwater. He seemed to change his mind right at the end, selling some of his original artwork and offering to show up as a guest at a local game convention. He may have been in need of money, and still bitter over slights suffered over a quarter-century ago. Even so, I'd like to think he eventually realized how much his work meant to a generation of gamers.

RIP, Dave A. Trampier, 1954 - 2014.

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